Obituary & Remembrances

Ellen Jonsson

Rena was a very supportive and caring friend, and I loved her dearly.

More than twenty years ago, I met her and Gus in Norman, Oklahoma at a cookout at Alan Munde's house. Alan played banjo with a famous bluegrass band, the Country Gazette. Gus and Rena were great fans, so they looked him up when they moved to Norman. Rena loved many different types of music from bluegrass to Bonnie Raitt to Rene Fleming, and so did I.

Rena had a graphic design business and I worked for the Arts Council of Oklahoma at that time, so, I hired her to do several projects with me, which is how our friendship began. The Council still uses the logo she designed.

We discovered that we had many things in common; we both graduated with fine arts degrees, we were both brought up in the Northern European Lutheran culture (and enjoyed Garrison Keiler's amusing satires), and we both loved Scrabble.

We played Scrabble regularly, drank wine, ate popcorn, and discussed politics, gardening, families, books, and a wide range of topics. Rena loved words and made sure that they were used correctly in any materials that she wrote or proofed. Type design and calligraphy were some of her favorite aspects of graphic design, and you can see this focus in her artwork.

When Rena and Gus moved to Highland Park eight years ago, we began daily correspondences by email. We managed to make short visits to one another, never enough, never long enough.

Rena was the most conscientious person I have ever known. She truly "walked the talk" and always tried to do the "right" thing, not the easy thing. Rena and Gus contributed time, energy, money to many political, social and environmental causes that they believed in, and were always supportive of the arts and artists. Rena's artwork addresses womens' issues related to social injustice and inequality.

She was conscientious in other ways, less obvious to people who did not know her. She bought fair trade coffee, organic produce, non-polluting household cleaners and soaps, and became a vegetarian.

I loved Rena's sense of humor. She celebrated National Chair Day, for example, by sending friends a print of a chair with a poem. This was one of several wonderful small prints with poems or statements that she produced.

She remembered special days of friends and family and always sent thoughtful gifts, clippings of interest, or cartoons that had special meaning to the recipient. Rena took the time to honor her friends and family with a thousand small kindnesses through the years.

Rena has always been an inspiration to me, and I can only try my best to follow her example. I miss her.